What’s Next For Marlboro
Early morning on the 14th of February, 40 students from Marlboro visited Emerson’s campus for Valentines day. Upon arrival, Emerson’s staff handed out purple bags full of Emerson-related goodies and split students into two groups for the day.
The red group (as in roses are…) started with a tour of Emerson’s residence hall rooms, meeting with RAs (resident assistants) on a number of floors, and asking questions about student life and hall culture. Then this group experienced firsthand some of Emerson’s academic buildings, including classrooms replicating newsrooms full of lighting equipment and cameras.
“We have desks in our classrooms but we mostly use them to lay our backpacks and jackets on” said an Emerson tour guide, “we really spend almost all of class period participating with materials and being hands-on as a team.”
The blue group (as in violets are…) started the day with an academic advising panel that included Amy Ansell, the dean of Emerson’s Individually Designed Interdisciplinary Program, and Michaele Whelan, provost and vice president of academic affairs. Students used the forum to ask questions about how tutorials would transfer into the Marlboro Institute, what the process of Plan might look like their senior year as well as advanced studies in areas such as the sciences, music, and visual arts.
“We’re here to respond to any questions you have as you’re considering your educational journey and how the future institute, as well as other areas of Emerson, could best serve you” shared Michaele Whelan. “We are all here to help with the transition of Marlboro’s values to the institute, and for those Marlboro values to truly thrive,” added Amy Ansell. “We really want to connect with you throughout this process to continue bridging that”
Each group switched places for their own tour or advising panel, then students had lunch with Emerson students in the campus dining hall. They also engaged with various officials across Emerson at a student resource fair above the dining facility later that afternoon.
“It was a little overwhelming at first” said one Marlboro student, “but I appreciate how many different support systems there are at Emerson. We’d like to do an overnight visit soon and sit in on some of their classes.”
“We look forward to hosting more visits with Marlboro students, and are certainly open to facilitating overnights,” said James Hoppe, vice president and dean of campus life at Emerson. “It gives Marlboro students a chance to really hear more about Emerson from the student perspective. We’re excited to make that happen.”
To: Graduate and Professional Studies Faculty
From: Richard Glejzer, Provost and Dean of Faculty
Date: February 14, 2020
Subject: Teach-Out Agreement between Marlboro College and Prescott College
All of us at Marlboro recognize that this has been a tumultuous time for our entire community. And while much of our public focus has been on our undergraduate programs, we have also been working to continue to support our graduate programs in a way that honors the work that all of you have done to create vibrant programs that engage students. I know Tristan has provided updates on this process and has shown his appreciation to each of you, but I also want to thank you for remaining engaged and being dedicated teachers for our Graduate and Professional Studies students.
As you know, Marlboro has been exploring partnerships over the past year because our financial condition has worsened. There is already a lot of information in the public record that explains how this came to be but the short answer is our revenue losses, due to dwindling enrollments, have forced the College to draw on our endowment at rates that are unsustainable. The alliance with Emerson College provides Marlboro with a means of preserving our mission while also providing a future home for our current undergraduate students and faculty.
I want to assure you that we did discuss the possibility of Marlboro’s Graduate and Professional Studies also migrating to Emerson. However, our programs do not fit well with Emerson’s current offerings and they have asked us to find other ways to accommodate our students going forward. Working closely with Tristan, Fumio Sugihara and I explored a range of other institutions that might be good homes for our programs and students. Our assessment focused on a number of criteria, but we were most interested in finding a home that allowed students to finish the program they started on a timeline that worked best for them. Although we had a preference for a Vermont institution, we were much more concerned about our students being able to finish on their own terms, without losing time toward their degree and without having to pay substantially more than they do now. After working with several institutions, we have decided to merge our management graduate programs with Prescott College, effective at the end of the current Winter term.
Prescott College, a recognized leader in online graduate studies, approached us with a proposal to teach-out our Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and Masters of Science in Management (MSM). They offer significant flexibility for students, with the ability to adjust their programs to fit our students needs. They will accept all Marlboro credit and will work with each student individually to provide a path towards finishing what each student started at Marlboro. As you may know, Prescott also served as the teach out partner for Green Mountain College and we have only heard good things about that transition from former GMC faculty and graduate students. Prescott also made pedagogical sense; like Marlboro, Prescott emphasizes sustainability, independent learning, and social responsibility.
While the agreement is highly favorable for GPS students, there are also benefits for our GPS faculty. Prescott is willing to hire Marlboro faculty to work with Marlboro students who transfer in order to provide a cohesive experience. These will be in part-time associate roles and in proportion to the number of Marlboro students who opt to attend Prescott. In recognition of GPS faculties’ commitment to mentorship, Prescott is also willing to hire GPS faculty as mentors for individualized and individually- named mentored-study courses on a student-by-student basis or group basis. These details are still in the works and more information will be provided when it becomes available.
I know that all of us would prefer to continue the work we began at Marlboro on our Potash Hill campus. But I am grateful that we have found such a good partner for our management programs in Prescott. Tristan and Fumio will be working with their counterparts at Prescott to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Richard Glejzer Provost and Dean of Faculty
In preparation for the planned partnership with Emerson College, Marlboro’s Rice-Aron Library is embarking upon a major project that will ensure the preservation of and continued access to students’ Plans of Concentration from all years. The library will have Plans completed prior to 2005 digitized and made accessible through their catalogue, where the majority of newer Plans are already available.
Although scanning the full collection Plans has always been the library’s intention, the immensity of the task and the disruption to the Plan Room has delayed the task until now. The imminent possibility of the Emerson alliance has made digitizing Plans a top priority, and an important part of Marlboro’s lasting legacy.
Starting on February 4, roughly 1500 Plans will be sent out for careful digitization by Morgan Records Management, a full service document management service based in Manchester, New Hampshire. This means that these Plans will not be available in the Plan Room through the remainder of the spring semester. The majority of Plans from 2005 and newer will still be accessible in the Plan Room and through the library’s catalog, where they ultimately be joined by the full complement of Plans.
On Monday, January 27, eight members of Emerson’s Student Life, Student Success and Admission staff visited Marlboro to share information with Marlboro students. The day started with an information session about the financial aid process, the options students have for housing on campus, and life at Emerson. Throughout the session every presenter reaffirmed Emerson’s commitment to supporting Marlboro’s students. Students were able to sign up for one-on-one meetings with Emerson staff representing areas across the college—including student services, admissions, financial aid, accessibility services and more. Marlboro students had the opportunity to engage and receive informed answers to their questions surrounding the alliance and what it means for them moving forward.
The Emerson team was struck by the beauty of Marlboro’s campus, enthusiastically exploring the trails, campus center, and climbing wall. “Everything looks so incredibly scenic the moment you reach campus,” expressed one member of the Emerson team during their tour. After lunch and the tour they met with Marlboro students throughout the afternoon and remarked how meaningful and engaging their conversations were with each of the students who signed up.
“We’re really excited for students who can come February 14 for another visit to Emerson’s campus,” commented one of the visitors. “We really appreciate all the hospitality we’ve received and want to reciprocate this sincere partnership and connection.”
To the Marlboro Community:
Our communication circulated in December caused some confusion, and we owe you greater clarity. In addition to responding to Will Wootton’s challenge, we want to share with you how our primary activities, goals, and principles have guided our decisions relating to the future of Marlboro and the proposed affiliation with Emerson College.
First, we want to be clear that we are open to Will Wootton’s challenge, and we look forward to hearing his thoughts. Will has made a generous offer of his time and expertise, and we appreciate his understanding of the risks small colleges are currently facing. We will be interested to see his conclusions.
Since our previous letter, we have made public on the Institutional Data page of the Marlboro website all the information Will should need for a full picture of the recent past and current status. The financial statements include breakdowns of costs (e.g. instruction, student services, food service, property maintenance) and income (e.g. tuition, net tuition, contributions, investment income, rental income) as well as information on the endowment and investments. The information posted includes the December 19th letter from our accreditation agency, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Although Will has asked that various senior staff be made available to him, presumably to produce forecasts and sensitivity analyses in response to hypothetical questions, we cannot spare staff to meet that request. Some staff members have recently left the College and have not been replaced, which has put a greater burden on those remaining. If Will, and whomever he consults with, have questions after they have gone over the material, we will make a trustee available to answer those questions.
The trustees, who include alumni, parents, and members of the greater Marlboro and Brattleboro community, share a deep affection for Marlboro and an appreciation for its unique model of education and community governance. Witnessing the lifelong impact of a Marlboro education on its students (ourselves, our children, our colleagues, and friends), has kept us working furiously for the past six years (and more) to find a path forward as a stand-alone institution. Unfortunately, the steep, persistent decline in students willing to come to Marlboro, combined with deep discounts in tuition and fees needed by the students who did come, put us in an untenable financial situation.
Over the past ten years, we have developed and followed two strategic plans to address enrollment, retention, curriculum, and operations. We invested in new marketing, increased our admissions budget, and made possible creative programming like the Renaissance Scholars tuition free program, the Beautiful Minds Challenge, and Marlboro on the Road. We evaluated and employed a variety of cost saving financial models, we found ways to share back office expenditures and staff with other institutions, and we utilized our partnership with the Music Festival to gain much needed new buildings and campus improvements. We sought to right-size where we could without changing the educational fabric of the College. In 2008 we had 38 tenured and tenure-track faculty. We currently have 24 tenured and tenure-track faculty. We firmly believe that cutting faculty positions further would do violence to Marlboro traditions and to our ability to deliver a true, four-year, fully accredited, liberal arts education.
Our primary goal has always been to preserve the unique qualities of Marlboro College – those which we came to refer to as the “Marlboro DNA” – the traditions of independent thought and study, self-reliance, and community governance. In thinking about the future of Marlboro, and whether or not the curricular model itself needed to shift, we asked faculty, with input from students, to re-evaluate and/or redesign the curriculum and they doubled down on their pedagogy, resulting in the Marlboro Promise. With persistent downward trends, it became evident that we didn’t have much financialrunway and relying on a heavy draw from endowment was also not sustainable. After pursuing serious negotiations with several other colleges, we reluctantly concluded that no potential partner could provide the stability necessary to allow the College to function effectively as a four year, fully accredited liberal arts college while remaining on Potash Hill.
Emerson College, while different than Marlboro in many respects, has a small, dynamic liberal arts institute with characteristics similar to our own. Merging with Marlboro, a treasure of the liberal arts, is an opportunity for Emerson to enhance and grow their liberal arts institute; to make something new and exciting that is informed by Marlboro. Emerson will rename its institute after Marlboro, permanently employ every Marlboro tenured and tenure track faculty who chooses to go to Emerson, and accept present Marlboro students with their existing credits at the tuition rate they are paying to Marlboro (Emerson normally charges considerably more). In addition, they agreed to incorporate Marlboro teaching and learning traditions with their own in order to create an exciting pedagogy and identity. These undertakings involve a great deal of planning, coordination, and innovative thinking by the Marlboro and Emerson administrations and faculty/curricular working groups, much of which is already underway.
Many of you have expressed questions and concerns for the Marlboro campus. The Marlboro Campus working group has begun to develop a process for assessing future uses and owners of the campus. The working group, comprising Marlboro alumni, trustees, staff, faculty, students and a representative from the town of Marlboro, is seeking proposals from organizations, businesses, and individuals for endeavors that would benefit the community and make productive use of the Marlboro campus. As this team proceeds, we expect to be able to share more updates with you about their progress.
We want to thank those who have taken the time to write us expressing their opinions, thoughts, and suggestions. It is a measure of the affection you bear for Marlboro that you have written with such strong feeling both in support of and against these plans.
With best wishes,
The Marlboro College Board of Trustees
Dear Marlboro Students:
We look forward to welcoming you back on campus very soon. The campus is not the same without you. For many students who are considering transferring to the Marlboro Institute at Emerson, one challenge has been the difference in room and board costs. This challenge has also been the focus of collaborative work between the development office at Marlboro and members of the Marlboro community.
I am pleased to announce that we are confident that we will be able to raise funds to support the difference in room and board costs between the current rate at Marlboro and the rate at Emerson. For any student who transfers to the Marlboro Institute at Emerson, we can now guarantee that we will cover the difference in housing costs until they graduate.
We hope that this news will help students make decisions about their future.
With very best wishes,
Marlboro College has formed a College Campus Working Group (CWG), composed of select members of the board of trustees, Marlboro Town Select Board and college alumni representatives, and elected members of the college staff, faculty, and student body. The CWG has been meeting regularly since December 9 to solicit proposals and ideas for future use for our beloved college campus. As academic programming shifts to Emerson College in Boston, the Campus Working Group welcomes proposals and leads from community members with the hope of making a recommendation to the Marlboro Board of Trustees and Emerson College for a project or institution that will maintain the values and integrity cultivated during the long tenure of Marlboro College.
The CWG is seeking proposals from organizations, businesses, and individuals for endeavors that would benefit the community and make productive use of the Marlboro campus. Proposals should be made by the person or entity intending to implement them and include a financial offer demonstrating clear financial and organizational capacity to care for and maintain the campus. All proposals must be compatible with the Marlboro Music Festival’s summer use and lease of the campus.
Inquiries or proposals should be sent as soon possible via email to the Campus Working Group Co-chairs Sara Coffey and Dean Nicyper (contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com). Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis and will be held in the strictest confidence.
A detailed listing of campus assets, including buildings and properties, resources, ecological reserve information, and other pertinent considerations is currently under development, and will be available upon request.
The Campus Working Group appreciates the valuable contributions and insight of the community and looks forward to helping establish a positive outcome during this institutional transition.
Following the November announcement that Marlboro College is pursuing an alliance with Boston-based Emerson, the college announced that they also formed transfer agreements with three other colleges. Although most students will likely transfer to Emerson, they now have the option to transfer with relative ease to College of the Atlantic, in Maine, as well as Bennington College and Castleton University in Vermont.
“We understand students have various preferences and needs in meeting their academic goals, and that for some students transferring to an institution other than Emerson may be their best path forward,” said Marlboro Dean of Admissions Fumio Sugihara. “We want to share this news about three very attractive transfer options that are now complete, while a fourth is currently in the process of being signed.”
As part of these transfer agreements, each of the three institutions has agreed to waive application fees, waive certain requirements within their transfer application process, and accept most of Marlboro’s credits. In terms of financial aid, Castleton University has agreed that students will pay the equivalent or less as they would have at Marlboro. College of the Atlantic and Bennington College have agreed to work closely with students and their families, as well as the Financial Aid Office at Marlboro, to evaluate and serve each student’s individual financial aid needs.
Provided that the merger with Emerson College is finalized, students continuing on to Emerson will join the newly named Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies. There they will join the majority of Marlboro tenured and tenure-track faculty, who are also continuing onto Emerson. But the college remains sensitive to students’ needs and supportive of alternative decisions, whether these involve College of the Atlantic, Bennington, Castleton, or any other college.
“Admissions will support any student interested in transferring to an institution other than the Marlboro Institute, including institutions that are not included in our partnerships,” said Sugihara. The college has agreed to pay application fees for students transferring to non-partnered colleges. “With regards to these new, partnered transfer agreements, we will assist students with paperwork and connecting with the appropriate people at each institution.”
During the December 14th special meeting of the Marlboro College Board of Trustees, the Board held a public comment period to hear the concerns of alumni, Marlboro townspeople, and other constituents regarding the college’s proposed merger with Emerson College. One of the requests the Board received in this open session was to share data used in making the decision to seek a partner in order to secure the future of the college. In response to this request, the Board is providing documentation on the College’s finances, enrollment, and accreditation status…Read More.
A delegation of Emerson College faculty visited on December 17 and 18 to meet with Marlboro students and faculty to begin charting out their future academic work at Emerson. Amy Ansell, dean of the Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, was joined by members of the Emerson Curriculum Committee and other faculty leaders for this exciting and productive visit. They met with Marlboro students considering transferring to Emerson and faculty members wanting to learn more about their role in the newly named institute.
The visit culminated with an afternoon-long collaboration with members of Marlboro’s Strategic Options Task Force, Curriculum Committee, and Committee on Faculty, including four students. Together, the future colleagues brainstormed and discussed what critical parts of the Marlboro curriculum and culture could be transferred to Emerson, and explored how the Marlboro Institute would support a new, four-year program of interdisciplinary inquiry.
Subjects discussed included faculty course load, classroom size, credits dedicated to individually designed study, culminating capstone projects, and continuing to fulfill the Marlboro Promise through classroom components. Special considerations for Marlboro students transferring to Emerson were also discussed. Much progress was made in these areas, and all parties agreed to work toward future visits and further refinement of the Marlboro Institute curriculum design.
To the Marlboro Community on and off the Hill,
We write today to provide an update on recent events and discuss plans for moving ahead.
On December 14, more than 75 people gathered in Ragle Hall to share their views on the potential merger of Marlboro and Emerson and provide an opportunity for community members to offer comments directly to the trustees. Those in attendance included alumni, Marlboro town residents, retired faculty, along with a few current faculty and students. More than 20 individuals had the opportunity to speak. This event, recorded by Andy Reischmann, is available on BCTV’s website and will be aired on community Brattleboro Community TV later this week.
Some speakers who are not currently on the Hill expressed dissatisfaction with the partnership process, suggested that Marlboro can and should make it on its own, and shared strong feelings about the loss of staff positions and the rural campus. Some speakers currently living and working on the campus expressed that although making it on our own was everyone’s preferred option, it was not a viable option given our circumstances, and that the merger with Emerson that retains our identity and pedagogy through support of our faculty and students was an option far better than closure. We deeply appreciate everyone’s efforts in coming to Marlboro to share their views, and recognize that regardless of our different opinions about the best way forward, everyone is motivated by a desire to preserve the treasure that is Marlboro.
The trustees, representing alumni, parents and members of the greater Marlboro community, share the same deep love for Marlboro and an appreciation for its unique, irreplaceable model of education and community governance. We have experienced first hand the lifelong impact that a Marlboro education has on its students (ourselves, our children, our colleagues and friends), and have been working furiously for the past four years to find a path forward that would allow Marlboro to continue as a stand-alone institution. The failed Bridgeport merger that would have kept the campus open proved too good to be true. Alas, and with great sadness, we ultimately reached the conclusion that there wasn’t any viable option that would allow the College to remain on Potash Hill.
As is well known, Marlboro has not been alone in suffering from declines in enrollment for the last decade. Small, rural, liberal arts colleges have struggled to attract students from a shrinking pool of applicants, particularly in the Northeast US, in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Between declining enrollment and increases in financial aid, colleges like Marlboro face annual budget deficits that are unsustainable, despite significant efforts to turn things around. Despite many recent efforts, including innovative scholarships, new and more targeted marketing, a new website, and a reimagined curriculum (the Marlboro Promise), Marlboro still struggles to make ends meet. We have been forced to draw from our endowment each year at an alarming rate to cover operating expenses. Despite recent success at increasing inquiries and applications under new leadership in the Admissions department, we still saw a decline in deposits for the incoming 2019-20 class.
Given the spate of recent closures, our accreditors have been increasingly vigilant about what is considered sustainable. In each of the five decades that Marlboro has been accredited we have been required to provide increasingly extensive reporting about our enrollment and finances. More recently, although our academic program continues to receive high marks, we have been required to submit reports annually since 2015. Based on those reports, we were placed on a notice of concern in 2017 relating to our finances and enrollment, and were strongly encouraged to pursue a partnership strategy to address our enrollment and financial issues. Although NECHE, our accreditors, accepted our five-year report that was based on our accreditor’s understanding that we are actively pursuing the Emerson merger. Some institutions that have resisted change have closed their doors without providing any way for students to complete their degrees and for faculty to continue to teach. Based on continued efforts over many years to stem the enrollment decline, an extensive analysis, and advice from EY-Parthenon, one of the pre-eminent higher education consulting firms, the trustees concluded continuation as a small, rural, liberal arts college was not sustainable.
The trustees believe that acting now, before the endowment is exhausted and options become extremely limited, is the most appropriate way to protect the interests of the students, faculty and Marlboro community. We are hopeful that the campus working group will facilitate proposals for future use of the campus that will enable our beloved Potash Hill to find new life.
There have been concerns that the process of making this decision was not participatory, and was not communicated effectively to the Marlboro community. The board of trustees is responsible for the overall supervision of Marlboro affairs. It has a fiduciary obligation to take actions in the best interest of Marlboro. In November 2018, the board performed its responsibility by creating the Strategic Options Task Force to make recommendations concerning the future of the college.The SOTF is comprised of representatives of the faculty, student body and trustees, and senior staff regularly participated in its meetings. Faculty, students, staff, and trustees were all given regular updates at faculty meetings, college Town Meetings, and staff meetings. Some information was not shareable as it would have jeopardized the confidentiality required in negotiating potential partnership agreements.
After the December 14 public forum, the Board met to discuss the efforts relating to the Marlboro-Emerson merger and on other matters. Each of the working groups. (finance, faculty, student, governance, and campus) provided an update. The Board also approved a severance package for staff and provided tenure to Nelli Sargsyan, professor of anthropology.
One reason for the good momentum on these working groups is the frequent interaction between Emerson and Marlboro. In the period since our November 6 announcement that Marlboro College was working towards a merger with Emerson College, students and faculty have visited Emerson’s Boston campus, the Marlboro working groups have engaged Emerson personnel and Emerson administrators have made several visits to Marlboro to start piecing together how Marlboro’s legacy and pedagogy can find a home in the Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.
At the recent public forum, community members challenged the trustees to provide more information supporting the board’s decision to merge with Emerson. The college will be responding to this request for more information soon.
In closing, we cannot express strongly enough our gratitude for the many tireless hours of work the Strategic Options Task Force has devoted to exploring all of Marlboro’s options over the past year. We are also heartened by the warm reception by Emerson President Lee Pelton and his many colleagues who have made every effort to accommodate Marlboro’s people and pedagogy in the institute that will bear our name. Although our decision has not been a popular one among alumni and other constituents outside the campus community—and we understand this—we are unwavering in our support for the promising future of Marlboro at Emerson College.
We will provide an update on these matters early in the New Year.
Until then with warm holiday wishes from Potash Hill,
The Marlboro Board of Trustees
Addressed to Marlboro President Kevin Quigley:
I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts on the Marlboro & Emerson alliance, whose formation is well under way.
I applaud the Marlboro Board of Trustees for taking the bold and brave step to honor and preserve Marlboro’s legacy, provide its students with a pathway to complete their degrees in an independent learning environment and permit its faculty to continue their teaching, scholarship, creative activities and research.
For the last decade or so, I have observed and commented on the several factors that have put many small colleges in jeopardy as they struggle unsuccessfully to attract and retain a shrinking pool of applicants in an increasingly competitive market place. As you know, these institutions suffer from persistent enrollment declines, significant increases in financial aid, annual budget deficits and, in New England, a very sharp fall-off in prospective students. These and other forces have created long-term structural barriers to viability that are rarely fixed even by well-intentioned efforts on and off campus.
Unfortunately, some of the institutions who have resisted change have closed their doors without providing a way forward for students to complete their degrees and for faculty to continue to teach. Others have taken steps to preserve their legacy and support their students and faculty through alliances with other colleges and universities, including, most nobly, in New England, Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and the Wheelock School of Education & Human Development (formerly Wheelock College) at Boston University.
A French philosopher once quipped that “the future is not what it used to be.” This is undoubtedly true. There are those who see the future and hide from it; there are others who see the future and run from it; and then there are those who see the future and run towards it.
After careful deliberation and exploration of all opportunities, the Marlboro Trustees embraced the future – as has Marlboro College since its founding.
Marlboro is a treasure. At Emerson, we recognize that Marlboro’s curricular and pedagogic experiences are profoundly linked to and influenced by the Vermont rural landscape. Its setting is the raison d’être – the animating spirit that brings to life, in full measure, the teaching and learning that takes place on Potash Hill. We also recognize the importance of the Marlboro campus to the surrounding community and we look forward to supporting efforts to honor its heritage and importance.
We are equally privileged to have the opportunity to keep alive and sustain the Marlboro Promise, which we pledge to steward in a new setting.
The Marlboro Promise to its students is also our promise to Emerson students: to learn to write and communicate with clarity and precision; to learn to live, work, and collaborate with a wide range of people; and to learn to lead ambitious projects from idea to execution.
Both of our institutions cultivate what have been called “the four C’s”: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.1 These are the capacities that have served our graduates well. They are the characteristics that the world can’t get enough of, and what we need to solve the serious problems that our society is facing, and to bring into being—in Shakespeare’s phrase—the “brave new world” of the future.
Our Colleges have always been places that prepare independent young minds to lead boldly, to be daring and to take risks; to take a stance.; to make their voices heard; to express themselves thoughtfully and powerfully; to make; to create; and to do.
Marlboro is a very special place with a very special history. Its legacy will continue to live and even thrive in the remarkable people who will teach and study at the Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.
The Marlboro & Emerson alliance is the best way forward for Marlboro College, given its multiple years of structural deficits and the severe and continuing erosion of its enrollment pool.
While I am sympathetic to the alumni/ae, community members and others who might be opposed to the alliance, I am confident that the path the Marlboro Trustees have taken is the best way forward for the College - especially for its students and faculty - both of whom - in my view – should be our paramount focus and concern. Put another way, the Marlboro Trustees properly fulfilled their stewardship and fiduciary duties by keeping their eyes on the future – not the past.
We do not take this alliance lightly. Marlboro’s legacy is to be cherished and tended with great care and humility, both for what Marlboro has been and what it will be in the future.
Please feel free to share my letter with those whom you believe might benefit from reading it.
M. Lee Pelton
President, Emerson College
A few weeks after the proposed merger with Emerson was announced, I still struggle to process the potential change and what it will mean to leave behind our beloved campus and colleagues. But I am heartened by the choice of Emerson College as a partner and the keenness of the Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies to collaborate on a new model of inquiry that will challenge and support us as we move ahead. I’ve always thought a hallmark of a Marlboro education is a willingness to leap before we are fully aware of where we will land. When I think of taking this next leap, I’m comforted by the Rumi quote: “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.”
Several of the performing arts faculty met with our colleagues at Emerson last week, part of a week of scheduled meetings between Marlboro faculty and their Emerson counterparts. As we enthusiastically shared ideas and goals, I wished our community could see the good will and compassion with which we were greeted by students, staff, and faculty. In contrast to some negative social media rhetoric I’ve read lately, working with faculty peers at Emerson on our alliance convinced me that the coming together is far more than a pact “in name only” but promises an opportunity to carry with us intrinsic elements of a Marlboro education we hold dear, leave behind aspects that are no longer productive, engage with a more diverse cohort, and conceive of expansive and exciting new projects.
I have had conversations with Marlboro students who see the alliance as a way for them to have the best of both Marlboro and Emerson. One student who originally applied to Emerson before coming to Marlboro is already thinking of how to use the resources in Boston for their Plan performance. Another student was previously accepted by Emerson but couldn’t swing it financially and now, because of the alliance, can pursue an interdisciplinary course of study with technology and resources we aren’t able to provide. From communication to journalism, students are seeing opportunities to expand their original ideas for study.
Even as we are all sad to leave our campus on the hill, a number of us are ready to embrace the changes this alliance will bring. I feel fortunate to be making the journey with so many of my Marlboro faculty colleagues and students and look forward to the transformation to come.
Brenda Foley MFA, PhD
Professor of Theater and Gender Studies
Editor, Routledge Series in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Theatre and Performance
In a spirit of good faith, a group of Marlboro students invited students from Emerson College to enjoy part of Thanksgiving break on Marlboro’s rural campus. Ten students from Emerson came to Marlboro for two nights, shared meals including Thanksgiving Dinner, and explored and connected with the particular sense of place that’s been reported and spoken of throughout Emerson’s community. The students represented various disciplines across Emerson’s majors, from creative writing to journalism, theater and performing arts, media studies and more—but all of the visitors remarked on the sense of freedom that resonated with their visit to Marlboro.
Marlboro senior Adam Weinberg, who orchestrated the Thanksgiving visit, felt the brief trip brought some profound moments for shared reflection: from face to face engagement, to appreciation for Marlboro’s spirit of trust and open access to facilities, to theoretical questions of “Why Liberal Arts?” and “What does it mean to explore across fundamental questions?” The Emerson visitors shared their enthusiasm for Marlboro’s way of embodying these qualities while celebrating them as a marbled approach to learning from the perspective of a small campus. The students expressed how much they took from their first experience on campus, not only as an insight into Marlboro’s world, but the possibility for certain kinds of story-telling from a place enriched so deeply by liberal arts. The morning before returning to Boston, the students expressed great thanks for Marlboro’s sincere hospitality along with a heartfelt promise to hangout again, soon.
On November 20, five members of the Emerson College leadership visited Marlboro College to get to know faculty and students, answer questions, and get a feel for the mood of the campus around the proposed alliance. Emerson President Lee Pelton was joined by Michaele Whelan, provost and vice president of academic affairs, Amy Ansell, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, Jim Hoppe, vice president and dean of campus life, and Anne Shaughnessy, vice president and special assistant to the president.
“Our students and you share some commonalities,” said Pelton, who addressed Town Meeting on behalf of the visitors. “They see in Emerson a place of magic, a place of creativity, a place where there are independent-minded people, and where students have agency. And my sense is that many of those characteristics are common to those of you who decided to come to Marlboro.” Pelton expressed optimism that Marlboro students and faculty and their counterparts at Emerson could work together to create an academic program of excellence.
In addition to attending Town Meeting, the visitors lunched with faculty, listened to senior Plan presentations, and concluded their visit by having tea with students to respond more specifically to their concerns. At one point Pelton asked, “How can we better support Marlboro’s students, all of you, in being received on our campus? I really appreciate hearing your ideas.” Some students responded with a commitment for Marlboro to live as its own, curated student space on Emerson’s campus.
Meanwhile, Michaele Whelan and Amy Ansell met with the Committee on Faculty and the Curriculum Committee to begin addressing faculty questions about what their teaching practice and curriculum would look like in the Emerson environment. All parties agreed that these discussions were very productive and informative, and look forward to many more opportunities to visit and connect.
As tenured and tenure-track faculty at Marlboro College, we support the current efforts to create an affiliation and explore a merger with Emerson College. Obviously, our first choice would be for Marlboro College to remain an independent and vital institution on our beloved Potash Hill, continuing to engage students in this beautiful rural environment and community. But we recognize that this model – though cherished by all of us – is no longer sustainable without an unprecedented infusion of money to our endowment. We have lived for over a decade with declining enrollments, decreasing revenue, and increasing uncertainty and anxiety about the future of Marlboro specifically and the liberal arts more broadly and have participated in initiatives to address our challenges. At this point, it is clear that we have two choices: either begin the process for closing soon after this current year or make a choice to preserve as much as possible of our progressive, interdisciplinary, student-directed educational model. This is not an easy decision and all of us feel a profound loss with this move. We especially recognize the effects this will have on our community that is so rooted in a sense of place, on our students, on our staff and non-tenure-track colleagues, and on the town of Marlboro and the wider region. As we move forward collectively to consider the transition of the academic program to Emerson, we are committed to supporting our students throughout this process. We are also committed to finding another future for the campus. We recognize that as tenured and tenure-track faculty we are fortunate to have the choice to go to Emerson while others do not have this choice. We commit to working with the community at large to identify new partners who can bring opportunities onto the Marlboro campus to sustain those most affected by this proposed merger.
Rosario de Swanson
Following quickly on the announcement of Marlboro’s merger with Emerson College, work has begun to establish a process that will determine more of the details related to establishing the Marlboro Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson. The Strategic Options Task Force has formed working groups to address issues relating to students, faculty, staff, finance, and the future of the campus. Each group will receive a specific charge and timeline to complete its work.
These groups will include elected community representatives who work closely with colleagues at Emerson with the goal of defining operating details of the merger and laying the groundwork for the smoothest possible transition. If you have suggestions or comments you would like to share with the committees please use the suggestion form on the What’s Next for Marlboro page.
Soon, President Kevin will be hosting two video conferences, one for alumni and one for the families of current students to address concerns and answer questions. If you are a member of one of those groups, please watch your email for login details and join us for an open conversation about Marlboro’s future.
Trustees at Emerson and Marlboro Approve Intent to Pursue Strategic Alliance, Targeting Confirmation by July 1, 2020
BOSTON, MA and MARLBORO, VT—Emerson and Marlboro Colleges announced Marlboro’s intent, beginning in the Fall Term 2020, to move its academic programs to Emerson, at which time Marlboro undergraduates may elect to matriculate and Marlboro tenured and tenure-track faculty may choose to teach at Emerson.
Marlboro will gift to Emerson College its endowment currently valued at more than $30M and its real estate holdings appraised at more than $10M. Marlboro’s $40M gift to Emerson will endow Emerson’s Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies program where Marlboro students will be enrolled and Marlboro faculty will teach. The Institute will be renamed the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College.
The alliance will allow Marlboro to keep its legacy alive through the Marlboro Institute at Emerson College where Marlboro students will complete their degrees and Marlboro tenured and tenure-track faculty will continue to teach. Marlboro will close its campus at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.
Emerson College is internationally recognized as the nation’s premier institution of higher learning devoted to liberal arts, communication and the arts with campuses in Boston, Los Angeles, The Netherlands and degree granting programs in campuses located in Paris, Barcelona and Lugano, Switzerland (beginning Fall 2020).
Established in 1946 in Southern Vermont, Marlboro College is a remarkable, tight-knit community of scholars dedicated to independent learning and academic excellence. Marlboro undergraduates create their own course of study, much like Emerson students enrolled in the self-directed program housed in the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.
In Town Hall meetings held Wednesday morning at their respective institutions, Lee Pelton, President of Emerson College, and Kevin Quigley, President of Marlboro College, announced the alliance to their campus communities.
“This is an extraordinary alliance and a quintessential win for both of our commonwealths of learning,” said President Pelton. “One way to understand this transaction is to think of an individual making a $40M gift to endow an existing college program. For Emerson, the gift will permanently fund Emerson’s Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies program. For Marlboro, their legacy will live on, their students will benefit from enhanced educational programs, and their tenured and tenure-track faculty will continue to teach in an environment that supports intellectual creativity, innovation, and experiential learning.”
“This remarkable opportunity to develop an alliance with Emerson ensures that the essential elements of Marlboro will endure,” said President Quigley. “It preserves our identity through renaming Emerson’s Institute as the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, continues our pedagogy and commitment to progressive education by bringing our faculty to the Emerson campus, and provides extraordinary educational opportunities for our students with an alliance partner where there is a clear alignment of values, culture and purpose.”
In the weeks and months ahead, Emerson and Marlboro will each form working groups on the essential elements of the alliance. The groups will meet both separately and jointly to propose various aspects of the implementation of the alliance, including, but not limited to, academic affairs, student life, administration, human resources, fiduciary matters, and governance.
This work is to be completed in mid-spring, with the goal of confirming the alliance by July 1.
About Emerson College
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson College educates individuals who will solve problems and change the world through engaged leadership in communication and the arts, a mission informed by liberal learning. The College has 3,780 undergraduates and 670 graduate students from across the United States and 50 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 90 student organizations and performance groups. Emerson is known for its experiential learning programs in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, the Netherlands, London, China, and the Czech Republic as well as its new Global Portals in Paris, Barcelona and Lugano, Switzerland (beginning Fall 2020). The College has an active network of 39,000 alumni who hold leadership positions in communication and the arts. For more information, visit emerson.edu.
About Marlboro College
Marlboro College cultivates a close-knit, intentionally small learning community where independent thinkers can explore their deepest interests, collaborate with faculty as colleagues, and set the course for their own intellectual and professional pursuits. Located in southeastern Vermont, Marlboro undergraduate and graduate programs are based on a scenic campus in the town of Marlboro. Combined enrollment for undergraduate and graduate programs is less than 500 students. www.marlboro.edu
Tim Grader, firstname.lastname@example.org 413-210-6262.
Dear Marlboro Community,
We are writing to share important news about Marlboro’s search for a strategic partner. Since early 2019, the Board of Trustees has sought a partnership that would preserve Marlboro’s mission and our commitment to providing students with a rigorous education outside the boundaries of traditional majors and core requirements. Today we are announcing that Marlboro College has taken the first step to becoming the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies on the Emerson College campus in Boston. Given our severe financial challenges, coupled with difficult trends in higher education, the Marlboro trustees believe that an alliance with Emerson is the best opportunity to secure and sustain Marlboro’s legacy far into the future.
Emerson has a demonstrated commitment to interdisciplinary studies and progressive education, as evidenced by current programs housed in their Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies. The Institute will be renamed for Marlboro and will welcome existing Marlboro students and tenure-line and tenured Marlboro faculty who wish to continue their work at Emerson. Faculty will be tenure track or tenured as they are at Marlboro, which is a significant commitment by Emerson, and will ensure that Marlboro’s pedagogy and practices will shape Emerson’s programs and curriculum. Moreover, Marlboro College’s long-standing mission to develop critical thinkers, clear writers, and active citizens aligns with Emerson’s commitment to “core liberal arts values that seek to promote civic engagement, encourage ethical practices, foster respect for human diversity, and inspire students to create and communicate with clarity, integrity, and conviction.”
Marlboro students, who have been our priority throughout this process, will benefit from Emerson’s academic strengths in the liberal arts, arts and communications, in particular, as well as the numerous opportunities offered by the city of Boston. The Emerson campus offers a robust portfolio of student services and engagement opportunities in a creative and collaborative environment, as well as a strong and tangible commitment to equity and inclusion. Students will retain current tuition unless they transfer into another major or study on another campus outside of Boston. Students, including juniors, currently on Plan will be able to complete their work at Emerson with Marlboro faculty and in addition will have access to Emerson’s own faculty and extensive interdisciplinary course offerings. Students who would prefer to continue their studies elsewhere will receive Marlboro’s full support in their transfer process.
The decision to partner with Emerson and move to their campus was not easy for anyone, and it comes after years of seeking ways for Marlboro to remain independent on Potash Hill. The challenges facing small liberal arts colleges are acute and will only intensify in the coming years. Unfortunately, Marlboro’s ongoing budget deficits are only a preview of the difficulties ahead, as the number of students in the region declines precipitously over the next decade. It has been sobering to watch a number of our neighboring schools make excruciating decisions to close in the face of these insurmountable challenges, something that our accreditors have watched with alarm. The accreditors have shown concern with Marlboro’s own sustainability since 2015, and their oversight has increased dramatically as our neighbors have closed. The Board’s willingness to address all of these challenges now has meant that Marlboro, unlike our neighbors, has the resources to forge a partnership that ensures the continuation of our mission.
We recognize that our community will have a range of responses to this news and that change is hard for all of us. We hope everyone will come to share our genuine optimism for the real future that the Marlboro Institute at Emerson offers and continue to support our mission. We also recognize that this transition will be especially difficult for College staff, many of whom have served Marlboro for much of their working lives. Trustees will be collaborating with the administration to develop severance packages that demonstrate the College’s gratitude. With regard to sustaining Marlboro’s legacy and the memories of 73 years we have spent on Potash Hill, we have invested in developing Marlboro’s archives and will work with the newly relaunched Alumni Council to steward our continuing relationship to our past and place. Finally, we are committed to working with Emerson to discuss the future of the Marlboro campus, including the role of the Marlboro Music Festival, which we hope will continue to provide substantial benefits for the town of Marlboro and southern Vermont more broadly.
While this announcement is bittersweet, we do look forward to the many opportunities that the alliance with Emerson will provide for our students. We are grateful for Emerson’s commitment to our faculty and our pedagogy, as it will ensure continuity for Marlboro’s identity and the continuing engagement with students for generations to come. Although still in the early stages of our discussions with Emerson, we are highly optimistic that a final agreement will be reached. The next stage in the process will rely on working groups from both institutions to develop the details of the final agreement. We look forward to harnessing the ingenuity and creativity of Marlboro’s faculty, students, and staff as we make a thoughtful and intentional transition. Please check Marlboro’s website (www.marlboro.edu) often for future updates, milestones, and next steps.
Kevin F. F. Quigley
Richard H. Saudek
Chair of the Board of Trustees
The Strategic Options Task Force–comprised of the board chair, the president, four trustees, two faculty members, and one student–has been meeting regularly to review the options for Marlboro’s future, working closely with the Board of Trustees. While the merger with University of Bridgeport was not realized, there are several other attractive strategic partnerships that the task force is considering. These conversations with potential partners are governed by confidentiality restrictions that prevent the task force from providing any details to the Marlboro community. They will share information when the disclosure of that information does not jeopardize serious consideration of a possible partnership.
While the task force is hard at work, many individuals have been asking how they can help Marlboro College right here and now. The best way to help Marlboro at this moment is to donate to the Annual Fund, which supports student scholarships, programs, events, and other operating costs like keeping the lights on. Your gift is a concrete demonstration of your interest in Marlboro’s future, an encouragement to the task force to identity that best possible option, and ultimately a lift to the entire Marlboro community who would need to join in the effort to make the partnership succeed.
Be sure to watch this page for further announcements, which will be posted as soon as the Strategic Options Task Force is able to do so.
Marlboro College and the University of Bridgeport today have suspended negotiations on a potential merger due to concerns around the sustainability of a merged institution.
Both institutions worked diligently on a deal that would have seen Marlboro continue to provide its distinctive teaching tradition on its Vermont campus as the Marlboro College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Bridgeport, providing new geographic and programmatic options available to students on both campuses. The two schools suspended negotiations, citing insurmountable barriers to developing a compelling financial and academic model that supported both institutional missions.
As the smaller institution, Marlboro College was especially determined to protect the integrity of its rigorous, self-directed academic model and self-governed community. In addition, Marlboro needed assurances on UB’s enduring commitment to the Vermont campus and guarantees that the wishes of Marlboro’s generous donors, who established the College’s current sizeable endowment, would be maintained.
Although an agreement with the University of Bridgeport did not materialize, Marlboro College appreciates UB’s vision and willingness to engage in this challenging process. The Marlboro Board of Trustees will now pursue other options and continue to act in the best interest of students, faculty, and staff to seek a partnership that will preserve the College’s pedagogy and community while adhering to the College’s mission.